Tea, a mainstay for thousands of years in countless cultures, has garnered attention in the west for its health promoting potential throughout the past several decades. To qualify as tea, a drink must be made from the leaves of this evergreen Camellia sinensis. Among true teas, there are green, black and oolong, differentiated by the way in which the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant are processed – with green being the least processed. Being the least processed type of tea, green tea is the richest in antioxidant polyphenols. Its wide array of health benefits of green tea are generally attributed to these health promoting flavonoids, and in particular to a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).
Some of the Many Health Benefits of Green Tea
Some of the green tea health benefits are as follows:
Weight Loss: Promoting Metabolism and Fat Oxidation
Given the obesity crisis, this may be among the most desired of health benefits of green tea. Scientists from Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland investigated whether a green tea extract would increase energy expenditure and thus fat oxidation in humans within 24 hours of supplementation. 10 men were given either green tea extract (50 mg caffeine + 90 mg epigallocatechin gallate), caffeine (50 mg) or a placebo at breakfast, lunch and dinner and were subsequently evaluated in a respiratory chamber. Based on measures of respiratory quotient and urinary excretion of nitrogen and catecholamines, green tea showed significant thermogenic properties and promoted fat oxidation more effectively than either the placebo or caffeine, suggesting that EGCG has unique fat-burning properties.
Having a place among many foods to boost metabolism, green tea is also great for losing a deadly fat known as visceral fat - at inside the abdomen.
Protecting and Restoring Brain Cells
According to an article published in the journal of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, tea flavonoids (catechins) have been reported to possess antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory activities, to penetrate the brain barrier and to protect neuronal death in a wide array of cellular and animal models of neurological diseases. More specifically, Korean scientists have demonstrated that green tea extract consumed prior to brain injury exerts a neuroprotective effect and promotes better recovery from neuronal damage.
While the cancer fighting potential of green tea has been debated over the past several decades, a 2005 study from UCLA published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research was the first to prove that green tea extract was able to target cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone, a feat that current cancer treatments have yet to match. Another study showcasing the relationship between green tea and cancer found that five cups of green tea each day could reduce the risk of lymph cancers by up to 48%, and blood cancers by 42%.
Other findings also show how green tea can fight cancer cell growth by significantly reducing the number of lymphocytes, while yet more research says that green tea could aid in the prevention of lung cancer.
More research is necessary, but the potential of green tea in this regard is intriguing, to say the least.
While there is a major cholesterol myth and hoax lurking about, some people still feel better knowing cholesterol levels are in ‘normal range’. Japanese scientists evaluated blood samples of 1371 men over the age of 40 and found that increased consumption of green tea was associated with decreased serum concentrations of total cholesterol and triglycerides and an increased proportion of high density lipoprotein, along with a decreased proportion of very low density lipoprotein. High consumption of green tea- 10 or more cups a day- was also associated with decreased concentrations of hepatological markers in serum, suggesting that green tea may protect against both cardiovascular and liver diseases.
In another study, rats fed a very high cholesterol diet were supplemented with catechins extracted from green tea powder. Rats on the high cholesterol diet for 28 days showed increased liver weight, liver total lipids and cholesterol concentrations, but tea supplementation diminished these effects. Tea catechins decreased plasma total cholesterol, cholesterol ester, total cholesterol and artherogenic index, a measure of the ratio of high density and low density lipoproteins.
Other Health Benefits of Green Tea
The health benefits of green tea also include:
- Protecting against sun damage - According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the polyphenols contained in green tea are powerful antioxidants which not only protect the body from damage by free radicals, but can also protect the cells against DNA damage from UV radiation.
- Graceful aging – Antioxidants found in green tea provide anti-aging benefits and pave the way for graceful aging. Research shows that those who drink green tea are more agile and medically independent as they age. What’s more, the study found that these same antioxidant chemicals can help to protect your body against general health-impairing effects by fighting cell damage.
- Boosting the immune system, protecting against the flu - Researchers examining over 2,000 elementary school students, giving them a questionnaire about their green tea consumption and illness during influenza season. They found was those who consumed green tea daily were sick less often - drinking between 1-5 cups per day slashed flu rates, though the benefits stopped after 5 cups.
- Clearing nasal congestion - Green tea blocks histamine production and helps boost the immune system.
- Reducing stress – One Japanese study involving 42,093 individuals, 2,774 of which suffered from psychological stress and said green tea helped to lessen that stress, found that drinking five cups of the tea each day could reduce stress by 20%.
An enormous body of contemporary research withstanding, we are also wise to consider green tea’s history. Tea, and green tea especially, has a long been honored as a near sacred beverage in eastern culture. In The Book of Tea, Kakuzo Okakura introduces westerners to ‘teaism,’ wherein tea is drunk in a ceremonious way understood to promote and foster harmony with one’s self, one’s environment, one’s mind, one’s heart and one’s nature. The health benefits of green tea and all teas within the practice are considered self-evident.
My background considered, I readily admit that I might be biased, but I can’t help but make an observation: divorced from one another as they may seem, perhaps the richest understanding of green tea and its potential health benefits, and maybe even health in general, lies somewhere at the overlap of ancient eastern philosophy and contemporary western analysis.
Perhaps, we may all even have something to learn from one another.
Green Tea Benefit Summary – Green Tea is Great for:
- Protection against cancer
- Graceful aging
- Protecting against sunburn
- Weight loss
- Protecting and restoring brain cells
- Clearing nasal congestion
- Boosting the immune system, protecting against the flu